The opposition Move Forward Party (MFP) says it is not worried about a 100-million-baht defamation suit against MP Rangsiman Rome after he raised questions of money laundering allegations against an unnamed senator during this week’s censure debate.
MFP list MP Theeratchai Phanthumas said it was not uncommon to see suits filed after censure debates when the person accused was not named and was not in Parliament to respond at the time.
The party would fight the suit because it had performed its duty honestly and had no intention to slander anyone, he said, adding that it had facts that could be proved in court.
“There is nothing to worry about. As the suit has already been filed, we have a team of lawyers to fight the case,” Mr Theeratchai said on Saturday.
On Friday, appointed senator Upakit Pachariyangkun assigned his lawyer Ruangsak Suksaengsri to file a suit in the Criminal Court against Mr Rangsiman, seeking 100 million baht in damages. The lawyer said the court set May 1 for the first hearing in the case.
During this week’s debate, Mr Rangsiman accused the government of failing to solve the drug trafficking problem. During the debate, he cited the case of a senator with the Thai initial “Or”, who was wanted by the police for suspected involvement in drug trafficking.
A warrant for his arrest was issued by the court but later withdrawn and a summons was issued instead, citing his senatorial status, Mr Rangsiman said.
He also alleged that that the land on which the United Thai Nation Party (UTN) head office is located belongs to the same senator.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is a member of the party and its prime ministerial candidate for the upcoming election.
Mr Theerathai said the MFP had to look into details of the senator’s suit. However, it may be able to ask for more documentary and material evidence related to the warrant Mr Rangsiman cited, in order to further prepare its defence.
“In the end, will the suit be good for the plaintiff or not? We have to see,” he said.
“However, the suit may be withdrawn because the defendant will fight the case to his fullest capacity and use the court to summon witnesses to testify until the allegations are investigated more deeply than before.
“Is a suit demanding 100 million baht worth filing or not? The plaintiff may not win. Mr Upakit should have second thoughts.”
Mr Rangsiman, also the MFP spokesman, said he was ready to fight the case and vowed to continue pursuing his duty to scrutinise the government.
Writing on his Facebook page, he said he had faced other defamation suits seeking huge sums in the past, in hopes that people would dare not criticise them.
While censure debates mostly focused on the government, sometimes outsiders were referred to because things the government does often involve outsiders.
He declared he would fight the defamation case and would not flee. He also called on Mr Upakit to provide a clarification to the public since he is a public servant who receives taxpayers’ money.
Mr Upakit has been under increased scrutiny since the arrest last September of Tun Min Latt, a well-connected Myanmar national, on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.
Tun Min Latt was arrested on Sept 21 in Bangkok along with three others, one of them a son-in-law of the senator. All four remain in custody in Thailand.
Mr Upakit at the time denied having a close relationship with the Myanmar tycoon.
Mr Upakit, who owned a hotel business in the Myanmar border town of Tachilek, admitted he knew Tun Min Latt through an electricity supply business but insisted he was not involved in any “grey” business with the accused.
Tun Min Latt pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering charges in the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court on Jan 23.
During the hearing he and co-defendant Dean Young Guntula, the son-in-law of Mr Upakit, appeared in court shackled by the ankles, while the other two were not shackled, The Irrawaddy news service reported.